Posted by: macintoshsisters | February 27, 2008

Mac OS X Leopard Edition: The Missing Manual

Mac OS X Leopard Edition: The Missing Manual
author: David Pogue
pages: 893
publisher: O’Reilly Media Inc.
rating: 10
reviewer: John Suda
ISBN: 9780596529529
summary: Great Manual for all levels of users

Every one of the editions has been exceedingly well-designed and written combining serious treatment of subject content with style, wit, and humor, as well as honest evaluation and critique of features of the Mac operating system. All of the OS X Missing Manuals have addressed issues for a broad range of users, from the lightly experienced, the intermediate, and for power users. For the most part, however, the primary focus of each edition has been on the less experienced users. This has changed with the Leopard edition.

There seems to have been a deliberate effort to make the book more appealing and useful to upper-end users without losing any utility at all for others. There seems to be more material for power users- -there are more Power Users Guides providing advanced information and techniques, more UNIX references for those willing and able to take avail of the UNIX kernel underlying the operating system, more identifications of keyboard shortcuts, and more disclosure of undocumented and advanced features than in previous editions.

For example, Pogue itemizes and describes at least 20 UNIX utilities that only power users would want to use, explains how to configure preferences for the Terminal application, explains how to deal with the file and folder permissions system using UNIX commands, and even notes the existence of the venerable Eliza therapist emulator program hidden in a part of the emacs text editor. At each juncture of describing operating system features, Pogue explains from the perspective of different levels of users, including the power user, like himself. Unlike in many other books purporting to cover a broad range of users, this one does not short on the higher-end.

This is all well and good as casual users are still widely well-taken care of by the thorough and well-organized explanations of nearly every feature of OS 10.5. The book is illustrated profusely with screenshots of system features, configuration processes, comparison of the Mac OS X versions, comparisons of Mac OS X to Windows features, and more. Nearly every page is loaded with Tips, Notes, FAQs, lists, tables, and sidebars. Throughout, there are nuggets of insight and technical arcana that even Mac veterans will be surprised to learn about. I learned, for example, that the one-button Apple Mighty Mouse has a secret 2-button feature. Also there is a similar way to operate a laptop with a two finger trackpad technique. There are a lot of tips and tricks like that in the book. Even beyond description and explanation, Pogue provides useful recommendations for configurations of the Dock, recovery from common errors, and using Automator to design practical workflows for common tasks.

The subject content builds upon that of previous editions and updates it with material relating to the 300-plus new features of Leopard. Much of the new material covers the Leopard update highlights the backup program called Time Machine, a desktop switching application called Spaces, the Stacks organizing feature, the file previewer, QuickLook, and the feature enhancements in iChat, Mail, and especially Spotlight, the search tool.

Spotlight is much more than a mere search tool although it is a great one. A whole chapter is devoted to it alone. Pogue explains how to use it not just for casual and advanced searching (using over 125 types of data and metadata) but as a quick launcher of files, folders, and applications; as a calculator; and as a dictionary. Sophisticated query languages can be used and Pogue lists a series of power user keyboard shortcuts for Spotlight use.

I see the book as especially useful for those Windows users of all levels gravitating to the Mac platform. Not only is the treatment of the Mac OS done well, but at nearly every juncture, Pogue takes the perspective of a Windows user and provides practical comparisons and contrasts of operating systems.

Weaving all of these perspectives into a harmonious, readable manual is a fine achievement. The content discussions and explanations are never abstract but written from the viewpoint of the thoughtful and practical user and no one is better at this than David Pogue who has been cited before as one of the worlds best (technical) communicators. The denseness of the treatment of the subject content diminishes somewhat from the readability of the book compared to prior editions and there is a bit less wit, humor and style. That is the trade-off, I presume, for the increased breadth and depth of the content treatment but this Missing Manual is still as well written as a computer manual can be expected to be.

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